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Chancellor's Column - February 2005  

Higher Ed Project List Based on Need, Fairness

The $500 million capital bond issue that is now making its way through the Oklahoma Legislature represents a tremendous investment in our future that will make it possible to better serve the more than 235,000 students in our public institutions. It will allow us to renovate the many college facilities that are in disrepair or in need of updating because of a chronic lack of funding for needed renovations.

The bond issue projects reflect only the most pressing needs and will improve instruction in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and other disciplines of great importance in today’s economy. Each project was carefully considered and approved by the governing boards of each public institution.

The amount of funding dedicated for each institution was also the result of a thoughtful process. The presidents of all of the state system institutions were closely involved and they unanimously endorsed the entire package.

Approximately 31 percent, or $153.8 million, was allocated, in large part, based on current levels of research expenditures and the amount of campus space dedicated to research. This is intended to enhance the strong connection between research and economic development. Other allocations in this category were based on the needs for entities that were not reflected elsewhere.

Another 30 percent ($150.7 million) was distributed on the basis of enrollment and growth in enrollment. Approximately 16.5 percent ($83 million) was based on current facility square footage, with added amounts for older campuses and overcrowded conditions.

Also, 14 percent ($70.4 million) will be used to fulfill state commitments made in the 2000 bond issue that was disallowed by the Supreme Court in 2003. Approximately 8.4 percent ($42 million) will fund an across-the-board minimum of $1.5 million that will go to institutions and agencies that receive either Section 13/New College Trust Fund distributions or Section 13 Offset allocations. This provision was particularly helpful for the smaller institutions with limited access to meaningful amounts of capital funding.

Passage of a $500 million capital bond project will benefit every region in the state, resulting in nearly 4,000 additional construction jobs during the lifespan of the project. This statewide building boom would have an economic impact of more than $737 million.

Prompt action will allow the state to lock down interest rates at current lower levels and allow institutions to negotiate construction costs at current levels. It also delivers a message to Oklahoma high school graduates that their home state is committed to their future. And, it is a clear indication to businesses considering relocation or expansion that our state is willing to invest in higher education.